In recent years, the popularity of electric scooters (generally known as e-scooters) has grown as they are a cost effective, lightweight and an eco-friendly means of transport.

An e-scooter is like a two-wheeled manual scooter, except it is propelled by a motor. The only e-scooters that can be used on public roads are those rented as part of government-backed trials. In the UK, there is now a government e-scooter trial running in different areas. London is the latest UK city to trial e-scooters. The Coronavirus pandemic brought the trials forward because they offered people a way of travelling and adhering to social distancing guidelines.

E-scooters used on public roads are classified as Personal Light Electric Vehicles (PLEVs), and therefore they are subject to the same legal requirements as motor vehicles. They must meet several different requirements as set out in the Road Traffic Act 1988. These include insurance, payment of vehicle tax, licensing, fitted with number plates and lighting and signalling capabilities.

It is also illegal to use e-scooters in spaces that are set aside for use by pedestrians, cyclists, and horse-riders, and this includes on the pavement and in cycle lanes. The conclusion therefore is that, apart from those rented as part of the government-backed trials the use of e-scooters should be limited to private land with the permission of the landowner. Any person who rides an e-scooter in a prohibited space in breach of the law is committing a criminal offence and can be prosecuted.

However, there is mounting pressure from road safety advocates for regulation and law around the use and safety of e-scooters to be developed and fleshed out.

A major concern is that safety measures for riders are currently not stringent enough. There are no regulations requiring users to wear a helmet whilst riding and also no compulsory measures to improve the visibility of e-scooters travelling in the dark such as headlights or reflective clothing. Without more stringent measures enforced in the current regulations, there is a significant increase in the likelihood of serious injury occurring.

There are also concerns over policing users of e-scooters. It would be difficult to differentiate between government rented scooters and privately owned scooters.

If you are involved in an accident whilst using a privately owned e-scooter on the road and suffer injuries, you are unlikely to be successful in making a claim as it is illegal to use a private e-scooter anywhere on the road in the UK.

If you are involved in an accident with another motor vehicle whilst using a hire e-scooter on a trial through an approved company, you may be entitled to compensation if the other driver was at fault for the accident. The same would apply if you were a pedestrian involved with an accident with someone using a hire scooter, as the government requires hirers to arrange for the scooter to be insured. A claim would need to be made against the rider’s insurance company. In cases where the driver of the other motor vehicle was uninsured or has fled the accident scene without exchanging details, a claim would need to be made with the Motor Insurers’ Bureau.

It is quite difficult at this stage to know whether the trial of e-scooters will go on to become a permanent feature of our roads in the UK. For now, I for one agree that much more needs to be done to protect road users from serious injuries caused by accidents.